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Yeah we’re breaking down the summer league Vol. 1: Nets beat Hawks by 3

Brooklyn Nets

Your “Cause for Optimism” report is here!

It was Game One of the Brooklyn Nets summer league stint out in Las Vegas. Basketball is officially back for the black-and-white club representing America’s greatest city. (Please, there is no debate. Carry on.)

The results of the game weren’t life or death. It’s the results from the game that we’re going to looking at.

So, aside from the Nets’ victory, a 75-72 win over Atlanta, here’s what happened.

The focal points of summer league are the young vets: Spencer Dinwiddie, Isaiah Whitehead, Caris LeVert, Rondae Hollis-Jefferson and Archie Goodwin. The first four shared slots in the starting line-up along with former Long Island Net Prince Ibeh in at the 5. Goodwin served as sixth man for the evening.

As a collective, the team was noticeably in attack mode all night long, jetting up and down the floor for fastbreak opportunities, looking to catch the opposing Atlanta Hawks sleeping, which they did time and again. The up-tempo style of play opened up many three-point opportunities. However, reminiscent of the big club last season, the Summer Nets struggled from downtown, shooting 5-of-24 (20.8%). Inside the arc they went 20-of-34, good for about 59%.

That constant and willingness to attack permitted the Nets to continually get to the foul line. They made the most of it, hitting 20-of-28 from the charity stripe, good for 71.4%, although only 2-of-6 at game’s end, which led to the tight final.

Now, the individuals.

Isaiah Whitehead, who averaged 7.4 points, 2.5 rebounds and 2.6 assists as a rookie, paced the Nets in scoring early on, and finished with 14 points in the showing. Whitehead was weaving through traffic, working the pick-and-roll into his favor, slashing through the lane, even giving Vegas a little Cyclone early on. Whitehead, playing out of the two-guard spot, lead the team in shot attempts with 17, converting five, but from downtown, he had a couple of airballs and finished 0-of-3.

Blue chipper Caris LeVert struggled with his jump shot. His patented quick release was almost too quick at times. However, he made up for his shooting woes by living at the foul line, hitting a team-best 6-of-8, before missing his final two. LeVert, like other Nets tonight, made a concerted effort to share the ball, especially on the break. LeVert ended with 12 points on 3-of-9 shooting, 0-for-3 from deep, but also had six rebounds and showed a spirited effort on defense.

Rondae Hollis-Jefferson, who is preparing for his first full season at power forward, found some openings early on, and even showed off the jumper, hitting one from near the top of the key, and stroking in a fadeaway in the post. Hollis-Jefferson finished with seven points and six rebounds, while also tasked with defending Taurean Prince a good chunk of the game, holding the Hawks second year player to 14. Prince briefly suited up for the Long Island Nets last season as an Atlanta Hawks assignee.

If you looked at a donut long enough, you could find the number of times Spencer Dinwiddie turned the ball while running the show for most of the contest. It was only near the end of the game when Dinwiddie registered his first and only turnover. He also finished with 10 points, three assists, three steals and three rebounds. Dinwiddie also had the team’s best +/- at 10, and was the true floor general in game number-one of summer league.

Watching the game, you notice the amount of pick-and-roll/pick-and pop-situations got themselves involved with including Dinwiddie and Hollis-Jefferson, Dinwiddie and LeVert, Dinwiddie and Nathan Boothe, who impressed with 11 points off the bench, including a 3-for-8 display from three as a stretch big.

The Nets also had Archie Goodwin playing some point late, attacking the rim and defending at a high level throughout the match-up. Goodwin tied Whitehead for 14 points (on 6-of-10 shooting), while also recording six rebounds Most importantly, he was selected for the post-game interview with NBA TV.

“Just getting better and staying with our principles,” Goodwin said of the Nets focus. “We’re building a foundation that we’ve talked about every game. (Kenny and Sean) want me to be a dog defensively and keep attacking the rim.”

Because of his relentlessness on both ends, Goodwin earned praise from Isaiah Thomas, who did color commentary for the game. Thomas compared Goodwin to Tony Allen.

We didn’t see a ton from partial guarantees Jeremy Senglin and Jacob Wiley, who combined for five points in 11 and 13 minutes, respectively. There were plays where you got a sense of Senglin’s deep shooting and Wiley athleticism.

Kenny Atkinson liked the defense as well, but saw other issues with the youngsters’ play.

“Our defense was pretty good until the fourth quarter,” Atkinson told beat writers after the game. “I like that. We competed, had a big lead and let it slip. Offensively, we’re behind. Nine assists, we’ve got to do a better job playing with each other, just simpler.

“I thought all those guys tried to do too much, quite honestly. They did too much. They’ve got to let the game come to them. But that’s the first game. Hopefully we’ve got the cobwebs out,’’ Atkinson said. “This is the first part of it. Now the film review, we can help them get better, because there were plenty of mistakes out there.”

D’Angelo Russell showed at courtside, the only veteran we spied in the stands. He had flown in from Los Angeles. In an interview with NBA TV, Russell talked about getting a “new start” in Brooklyn and how no matter what the situation is, he is "going to make the best of it.” He declined to talk about criticisms of his character, respectfully saying he won’t answer those questions any more.

After the Nets win, Russell traveled from Cox Pavilion to the Thomas & Mack Center to watch some of his old teammates on the Lakers lose to the Clippers in a summer league game. He also caught up with former Lakers teammate Larry Nance Jr. and Corey Brewer, who praised the new Net.

“We’re great friends. Nothing changes. I still love to see him,” Nance said. “I’m sure we’ll still be hanging out in the summer time. We’ll still be friends except when we’re playing each other. I want him to be an All-Star. I want him to be an MVP; just not against us.”

“D-Lo is working his (butt) off,” Brewer added. “Say what you want, we traded him. But he was my teammate. I think he’s going to do great in Brooklyn.”

The Nets return to action at 6 p.m. Eastern Time on Sunday against the Milwaukee Bucks, followed by a showing at the same time on Monday night against the New Orleans Pelicans.